The US military should stay apolitical in the turbulent times caused by the killing of Afro-American George Floyd, but should remain committed to defending the Constitution of the United States, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a message to the Department of Defense released on Wednesday.
Esper recalled that in the last few months, the US service members had worked across communities to confront the COVID-19 crisis, but in the past week their mission changed, TASS reports.
"Our National Guard are now also being called upon across the country to help protect our communities, businesses, monuments, and places of worship," he said.
"As I reminded you in February, I ask that you remember at all times our commitment as a Department and as public servants to stay apolitical in these turbulent days. For well over two centuries, the US military has earned the respect of the American people by being there to protect and serve all Americans," Esper continued.
The Secretary of Defense recalled that the Department of Defense personnel had taken the oath to defend the US Constitution.
"As part of that oath, we commit to protecting the American people's right to freedom of speech and to peaceful assembly. I, like you, am steadfast in my belief that Americans who are frustrated, angry, and seeking to be heard must be ensured that opportunity. And like you, I am committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting life and liberty, so that the violent actions of a few do not undermine the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens," he stressed.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said earlier at a briefing that President Donald Trump could use the Insurrection Act of 1807, which gives the president the power to deploy the military forces for domestic missions to enforce laws. That decision had been triggered by the protests turning into riots across the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis (Minnesota). The Insurrection Act was used last time in 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles sparked by police brutality against Afro-American Rodney King.
Trump’s political opponents bashed the president’s idea. Governors, whose consent is needed to deploy the military, have refrained from asking for this help.